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The lowest volume I can get by pressing the volume keys is still too loud when I'm wearing headphones. How can I make it even lower?

I have a Mac Mini 2011 (5,1) running Mountain Lion.

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3  
Hold the headphones further away from your ears (sorry, couldn't resist!) :) –  Dan J Sep 6 '12 at 19:02
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5 Answers

up vote 31 down vote accepted

Pressing ShiftOptionVolume Up/Volume Down allows you to adjust in quarter-box increments. You can also click the volume icon in the menu bar and fine-tune with the slider, or open the Sound panel in System Preferences and get a bigger slider there, which would allow for finer control.

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The question is about 10.8 but in case is not working: his feature disappeared in Lion (10.7) but reappeared in 10.7.4 (just check the version if it is not working) –  Matteo Sep 6 '12 at 19:16
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I can confirm that it does indeed work on 10.8. –  robmathers Sep 7 '12 at 4:02
    
Normally, pressing just Shift and Volume Up/Down changes the volume while temporarily reversing the setting “Play feedback when volume is changed”. Out of curiosity, is there a way to reverse the setting while also adjusting the volume in quarter-box increments? Shift is already held as part of the combination you wrote, and not pressing Shift just makes the Sound preference pane open. –  Rory O'Kane Sep 7 '12 at 14:37
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So you want a way to do the quarter increments without playing the indicator sounds? I'm not aware of any built-in way to do that. Maybe if you created a script to toggle the preference, then change the volume, but it would be pretty hacky and probably require some GUI scripting. –  robmathers Sep 7 '12 at 17:41
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CanuckSkier already covered many ways. For terminal geeks, here is another way:

You can use the command line to set exact levels:

$ osascript -e "set Volume 0"    # for mute
$ osascript -e "set Volume 7"    # for maximum volume

Just checked on my Mountain-Lion-running MacBook: the maximum is 7, not 10 as it was in Leopard. So, when you want the volume level to be 50%, use this:

$ osascript -e "set Volume 3.5"    # for 50% volume

and (of course) you can use

$ osascript -e "set Volume 0.1"    # for a really LOW volume… ;)
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I can report that even osascript -e "set Volume 0.001" works, and is significantly lower than 0.1. –  myhd Sep 7 '12 at 12:40
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For those who don’t know, osascript -e "something" runs something as a single AppleScript statement. You can equivalently write the statement in the app AppleScript Editor (in /Applications/Utilities/) and click Run. (See the osascript man page.) –  Rory O'Kane Sep 7 '12 at 18:29
    
In Mavericks (10.9) for me, 0.01 and 0.001 have no difference. Basically 0.01 is the lowest meaningful value I could set, and it is still too loud! Moreover, "get Volume settings" works but doesn't show me the meaningful decimal values. –  A-B-B yesterday
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As well as the ways covered in the other answers, there is another simple way to get a volume lower than one box full.

  1. Lower the volume to one box full:

    volume at one box

  2. Lower the volume to muted by pressing Volume Down (not Mute):

    volume muted

  3. Press Mute to un-mute:

    volume at zero boxes but not muted

This gives you a very quiet volume that is between mute and one box full.

This zero-box-full volume is even quieter than one-quarter box full, the minimum volume you can set with CanuckSkier’s Shift-Option method. However, if sound is playing while you set the volume using this method, the sound is muted for the moment between steps 2 and 3, which can be a little annoying.

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+1 for this really nifty trick! –  myhd Sep 7 '12 at 12:36
    
Not good enough. Still way too loud. –  A-B-B yesterday
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I’m in what may or may not be a similar situation, with highly-sensitive earpieces. (Shure SE 535s, in case you’re wondering.)

The problem in my case is that the Mac’s headphone output has a certain element of noise to it: for most head- and earphones, this simply isn’t an issue, but for mine, lowering the volume to an acceptable point means leaving me free to hear the background static that much more clearly.

The solution for me is hardware rather than software: a little attenuator that plugs in between the headphone jack and my earpieces. I then turn the volume on the Mac up to 12/16, and use the attenuator to lower the volume to an agreeable level. That combination gives me both fine-grained analog volume control and a conspicuous absence of static. (Shure’s model is the EA650, and sells for a pinch over $16 at the time of writing; there may be others that work just as well.)

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When you hold SHIFT+ALTwhile pressing Volume UP/DOWN, you can change the volume in 1/4 increments.

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Alt+Alt doesn't work for me. do you mean Shift + Alt aka Shift + Option (the advice in the highest ranked answer) –  Stu Wilson Sep 13 '12 at 20:38
    
Sorry, your right, typo. I didn't ready read the answers, thought this one was missing. I updated it. –  Rogier Sep 13 '12 at 21:30
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